travel

gallo pinto and queso frito

Can you imagine waking up to this little bounty every morning? How about in 80 degree weather where the sun never stops shining? Ah, Nicaragua. Meeting up with Max and Monisha in Nicaragua was the best cure for the mid-winter blues.  Having spent part of of our trip in the rustic island of Ometepe and part in the beautiful colonial town of Granada, I got to eat some simple authentic meals as well as gourmet sophisticated fare. However, the best meal every day was breakfast. In this typical Nicaraguan breakfast, perfectly cooked eggs with fresh salsa, bananas, and fried potatoes were served with gallo pinto (garlicky red beans and rice), maduros (sweet, ripe plantains), and my favorite – queso frito (fried cheese). How can you go wrong with fried cheese? It is chewy and salty and holds its texture well to the heat, much like Cypriot halloumi, and when asked what kind of cheese they were frying up for us the answer was always…uh, Nicaraguan cheese? Of course.

Mid-day through evening, most of our calories came thirst-refreshing Nicaraguan beer. Don’t have a favorite? No matter, they’re all brewed by the same company anyway.

In Granada, a wealth of traditional and international cuisines awaited us. At El Tranvia in the Hotel Dario, you can eat Caribbean inspired cuisine in a beautiful Spanish colonial courtyard filled with tropical plants and flowers. I had the roasted tomato and snapper over fresh vegetables served with a slice of traditional Spanish omelet. I’d never think to pair fish with the potato and egg omelet, but it seems so obvious now.

At Mediterraneo, we were serenaded by troubadours while lingering over more fresh seafood. B indulged in the rich Nicaraguan lobsters caught off the Caribbean coast. He didn’t even have to work hard as they came cracked and de-shelled.

Our last evening’s meal was by far the most memorable. In a dirt-floored fluorescent-lit open-aired joint, we were told by those in-the-know to order the guapote sin espina. We didn’t know what we were in for: a whole bass-like fish, deboned, fried and topped with onions, peppers, tomato and lime. Served alongside tostones (fried green plantains) with queso frito (score!) it was the perfect meal. Halfway through digging at the tender, juicy fish with our forks, we asked – should we order another? That good. Where are you guapote? I miss you already.

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